An mixed-race Asian woman with long dark hair in a light top against a pink background.

Anna Aya Wants More People to Know (and Love) J-pop

The singer talks about her debut single "Someone Else," how she aims to uplift J-pop's profile, and empowering people to see their self-worth

Anna Aya

Brian Ziff

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!

At just 19 years old, Anna Aya is a force to be reckoned with. She started dancing at just 3, and by 6, she began her acting and modeling career. As a model, she's worked with brands such as Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Boucheron, and Fendi. She has also interpreted Japanese for multiple TV shows. As a singer, her debut song “Someone Else” is getting attention for its mixed Japanese and English lyrics, empowering message of self-worth, and introducing J-pop to Western audiences. The song inspires listeners to not dwell on a heartbreak but to seek “someone else” who is better and sees their worth.

Aya now splits her time between Los Angeles and Tokyo. We caught up with her to ask her how she stays motivated, and what's in store for 2024.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

An mixed-race Asian woman with long dark hair in a light top against a pink background with Anna Aya Someone Else in top right corner.

Anna Aya's debut single is called "Someone Else."

Brian Ziff

Naturally MonaLisa: Congratulations on the success of your debut single! Why do you think your single became so well received?
Anna Aya: So J-pop has not been introduced to the whole world yet, and it hasn’t had a chance to shine. I think when people hear my song and they hear mixed verses between Japanese and English, they’re kind of surprised. This is a very new concept to many people. Some people are familiar with mixed-Asian lyrics from K-pop since it has been around for more than 10 years, but not quite J-pop music yet. So I think this is why my song has caught a lot of people’s attention.

NM: In the song, the lyric that hits me deeply is, “A girl just needs to hear it for herself, or she might from someone else.” Can you explain what this line means to you?
AA: Michael Africk and Louis Bell wrote the English lyrics to the song first, and then I wrote the Japanese lyrics to the song. I relate to that lyric as well. If you don’t hear reassurance about yourself, you should leave and find something better. You are worth it, and you can move on and be your better self.

NM: On TikTok, you said you have been doing classical ballet since you were 3 years old. You even showcased a few ballet moves in the music video for “Someone Else.” How has classical ballet influenced your work?
AA: I think classical ballet is the core of everything. All dances say if you have learned ballet, it is really easy to shift into other genres of dance like jazz or hip hop. In ballet, you learn the basics of dance moves, such as having the right posture and becoming flexible. This is why it was easy for me to learn Japanese traditional dance and Armenian traditional dance. Because posture is very important in ballet, that skill has helped me in my modeling career.

NM: You are multitalented and you have done modeling, acting, singing, dancing, and even interpreting Japanese for guests on TV shows. What motivates you to try and explore different things when you could just focus on one thing?
AA: I love trying new things because it gives me excitement and adrenaline. I also like to experiment and try things my own way. For instance, I worked with my choreographer to create a fusion of ballet and jazz-funk for my music video. Lastly, I like to try new things so that I can have the experience and relate with more people along the way.

NM: You are only 19 and you’ve done so much already in life. What is something you haven’t done yet but you would like to try?
AA: I haven’t done a live performance for my song yet. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done a live performance in front of a crowd yet. That’s definitely on a bucket list. Hopefully, I can do this soon, perhaps in 2024. It would be very cool to see people’s live reactions to my performance. It would be great to perform at the Dodger Stadium, Kia Forum, or SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which is near home. I also would love to perform at the Tokyo Dome, which is one of the largest stadiums in Japan.

A mixed-race Asian woman in a light pink mini dress and high ponytail stands against a pink background.

Anna Aya's "Someone Else" is in Japanese and English.

Brian Ziff

NM: You come from a diverse family, you speak multiple languages, and you are constantly traveling between the United States and Japan. How have you found your identity and where you belong in this world?
AA: It was hard at first to discover who I am because I can’t truly put myself in one box. I’m a Japanese and Armenian person living in L.A. so I feel like my identity is a bunch of everything mixed together. But L.A. is very diverse, and living in a diverse city has helped me accept myself for who I am and not be afraid of expressing myself and my cultures.

NM: What are you working on currently and what can we expect from you in 2024?
AA: I’m potentially working on an album for 2024. I have a couple of songs already in the vault, and I’m still recording songs right now. I’m expecting to perform live next year in 2024. So look out for more music, live performances, and other related events from me in 2024.

Check out Aya's debut single, “Somebody New,” on Spotify, and watch the music video on YouTube. You can follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Published on November 29, 2023

Words by Naturally MonaLisa

Naturally MonaLisa wears many hats and has many passions. She is an ATD master trainer and a SHRM-CP certified HR professional. She has a small YouTube channel where she shares her personal experience with eczema and asthma, and she promotes nontoxic and vegan products that are safe for everyone to use. She also volunteers at the advocacy group BLM Cantonese, where she translates BLM-related terms from English to Cantonese to help Cantonese speakers have difficult yet important conversations about Black Lives Matter with their family and friends. You can follow her YouTube channel, Naturally MonaLisa and follow her on Instagram @NaturallyMonaLisa.